Customers Love to Talk to the CEO. Do More of That Now.

At our first big digital event, SaaStr Summit: Bridging the Gap, Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, shared a funny story. He said with work-from-home, he was able to talk to a lot more customers.  A lot more. And that he was Zooming with a smaller enterprise customer they’d just closed, who told him “She was worried about Slack.”

“Why are you worried about the company?” Stewart asked.

“Because the CEO has time to talk to me! That’s always a bad sign!”

Ok, laugh. But there’s a bunch of interesting points in that story. Stewart had more time to talk to more customers — and go further down the list and talk to customers he didn’t have time to before we were all working from home. Instead of 2-3 big meetings a week, and maybe a few in-persons a month … CEOs can now talk to 10+ customers a week if they want, or even 20. That is so many more customer conversations.

Do it.

Our following session with the head of all corporate sales at Salesforce told a similar story. Yes, they missed the face-to-face interactions. But they were able to talk to 10x more customers over Zoom. And again, the customers loved the additional connections.

One thing I’ve learned over 15+ years of selling in SaaS is that I truly have never lost a customer I’ve ever visited in person.  And I rarely lost a customer talked I to “in person” over a lengthy Zoom or two.  In other words, I almost never lost a customer that as CEO I had a personal connection to.

Today, it’s hard to get on jets and visit customers.  So that may be a loss in your bigger accounts.  You won’t get to take them out to lunch, and sit in person with a room full of your users.  You won’t get to hear their concerns in person, to show homage, to show your respect and appreciation in the same ways either.  Simply showing up makes a difference.  Both for closing deals, and retaining customers.  I remember the first big customer I lost was because the competition had shown up in person — and I hadn’t ever even talked to them directly.

But you know what?  You can do 5x as many customer Zooms now that we can’t travel or even Uber to visit customers.  So force yourself to.  You may lose more customers you Zoom with than you meet in person.  The bond may not be as deep as over bread.  But you probably can make it up in volume, doing more 1-on-1 Zooms with key customers.  You can still create some of those unique bonds over Zoom, and more of them.

Customers love to talk to the CEO.  Especially if the CEO listens to their concerns.  They feel respected.  They feel heard.  They feel a bond.  A bond that lasts years.

And it turns out, it even works in a 5 person company.  Maybe even just as well.  Your customers have invested a lot in your product.  It means a lot to them to talk to the CEO, even when the vendor is tiny.  It may even mean more.   So don’t wait until you are a bigger start-up to start talking to more customers.  Leverage the fact that the title “CEO” matters to customers, no matter how new and raw your startup is.

Leverage that.  It’s a retention and upsell weapon.  Customers love to talk to the CEO.

So do 5x-10x more customer meetings now.  Talk to at least 10 customers a week over Zoom.  20 if you can make it happen.  They’ll trust you more.  Stay longer.  And buy more.

I Never Lost a Customer I Actually Visited

Published on August 16, 2020

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